Thursday, February 7, 2013

Glacier National Park: Best Hikes

The scenery at Glacier National Park in Montana will take your breath away!  The Road to the Sun is one of the most famous park roads for its stunning views.  After visiting Glacier numerous times, there are a few hikes that have become my favorites.
1. Highline Trail
The highline trail has some of the most beautiful scenic views in Glacier National Park.  The trail starts at Logan Pass Visitor Center, and continues parallel with the Road to the Sun for the first part of the hike. 
As you start there is a short section that is cut into the side of the mountain with exposed ledges.  For those of you that are scared of heights they added a rope on the one side to hold onto.  This part does not last long.  You can see on this picture the Road to the Sun below the trail.
This trail offers many scenic views as well as opportunities for wildlife.  We saw mountain sheep, goats, and marmots along the way.
The trail continues for 7.6 miles to the Granite Park Chalet.  Don't let the distance of the hike intimidate you though.  Most of the hike is level with a little climb before reaching the chalet.  You may even hike in a little snow. 
A park employee hikes out to the chalet everyday to open up the store to sell snacks and drinks to hikers.  Its a great place to stop and eat, talk with other hikers, and enjoy the view.
 From the chalet you can continue on towards Grinnel Glacier, or take the shorter route down to the Road to the Sun on the Loop Trail.  It is 3.8 miles from the Chalet to the bottom of the Loop Trail.  From there a shuttle bus can take you back to Logan Pass where you began.
The Loop trail is a steep descent back down.  Although it will be easier on your lungs, your feet and legs may feel the effects by the time you reach the bottom.  This part of the hike was once completely burned by a fire in 2003, but is beginning to grow back.  The Highline Trail is definitely a favorite and popular choice in Glacier National Park!
Total Distance:  11.5 miles
Difficulty:  Moderate
Tips:  Hiking poles help while hiking in the snow and provide relief on your knees when going up or down hills.  Wear sturdy shoes, especially for the steep descent down the Loop Trail.

2. Ptarmigan Tunnel
The trailhead begins at the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn at the end of Many Glaciers Road.  The start of the trail requires little effort.  At 2.5 miles you will reach Ptarmigan Falls, shortly after will be a junction to Iceberg Lake which is worth the extra distance.  The Ptarmigan Trail however will turn right shortly after.  Once turning, the trail gains alot of elevation and the climb begins!
This is a common area for bear sitings in the park.  While we did not see any on this hike, we started the trail with two park rangers running past us with guns over their shoulders.  This definitely got me thinking about all the possibilities of what could have happened, and I made sure to make noise around every corner. 
The climb will continue to be steep, but the view that awaits is worth it!
The trail will open up with a view of Ptarmigan Lake and the switchbacks up to the tunnel.
While most of the trail is through the woods, the last half mile up to the tunnel will feel like your hiking in the dessert as you climb the steep switchbacks on gravel with no vegetation.
The 240 foot tunnel was originally built in the 1930's for horses to pass through. The park added steel doors to the tunnel which remain closed from October through July.
 Through the tunnel is a spectacular view of Elizabeth Lake.

Total Distance: 11 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Tips: Bear spray is something you should always carry in your pack when hiking in Glacier.  You can also check out my tips for bear encounters post.  The mosquito's were also pretty bad during alot of the trail, so don't forget mosquito repellent.

There are alot of great family friendly hikes in the park.  Here are some of my recommended shorter and easy hikes:
1. Sunrift Gorge
This trail is only feet off of Road to the Sun near St. Mary's Lake.  This narrow channel that was formed from glacier water is a popular stop for all visitors.
2. St. Mary's Lake
Stop at one of the overlooks or hike along St. Mary's Lake. 
3. St. Mary's and Virginia Falls
Take the 3 mile hike to St. Mary and Virginia Falls.
4. Barings Falls
Only 1.5 miles to this beautiful waterfall.
5. Grinnel Lake
 Many Glaciers visitor center has a lodge overlooking one of Glaciers beautiful lakes.  Relax and enjoy the view, or take one of the many hikes around Swiftcurrent, Sherburne, Grinnel or Josephine Lake which are all nearby.
6.  Running Eagles Falls
Near the Two Medicine Visitor Center is this easy 3 mile hike to Running Eagles Falls.  On a hot day it is not uncommon to see people swimming and enjoying the cool glacier water on this hike.
Hope you are all able to visit and enjoy the wildlife and scenery in Glacier National Park as much as I do!   Let me know if you ever have any traveling or hiking questions!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Thumbprint Cookies

Hey guys!  Decided to do a little baking today, trying to keep warm from the Wisconsin blizzard outside.  I love it when I have a little extra time to try out new recipes.  I heard about these Almond Flour thumbprint cookies from Nourished Kitchen.  These cookies are gluten, dairy, and sugar free!  
 Now I know what most of you are thinking..."How good can these really be without sugar?"  But I promise you, you and your kids will not be able to tell!  They will have no idea they are actually eating something that isn't bad for them!
So what's really in these things?
2 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup coconut oil melted
1/4 cup organic maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
fruit jam or chocolate
 As part of a new years resolution to eat healthier, we've been getting our produce and some meats at the local indoor farmers market.  We bought the organic maple syrup and homemade strawberry jam there.  I also found the coconut oil and almond flour at Woodmans in the organic aisle.
Place the almond flour, salt and baking soda in a small bowl.  In a seperate bowl mix together maple syrup, coconut oil, and vanilla.  Slowly combine liquid and dry ingredients while mixing with electric mixer.  Cover and chill the dough at least one hour, or up to 2 days.
Once dough is chilled, roll into balls and press thumbprint into center.  Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Add a small dot of jam or chocolate into the center.  Bake for 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees.
These cookies are best when served within first hour.   Almond flour tends to soften over time, but they can be reheated in oven to re-crisp them. 
And here they are.....
Its a great treat to serve with no preservatives!  You will be amazed at how good they are.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Attention Ice Cream Lovers: Yonanas

There is nothing I love more after a hard day of work than coming home, scooping a huge bowl of ice cream, and sitting on the couch watching one of my favorite tv shows. Truthfully, I enjoy ice cream anytime of the day....breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Mix in this enormous love and addiction to ice cream with a sensitive stomach to dairy, it creates not good things later in the day if you know what I mean.
Recently I saw a talk show displaying Yonanas.  Besides my crockpot, this has become my new favorite kitchen appliance.   For all you ice cream lovers that have weight loss resolutions, this is a MUST buy!
The Yonanas takes frozen fruit and turns it into the consistency of ice cream!  Most recipes call for bananas which give it the creamy texture of ice cream.   I have made mixtures with bananas, strawberries, raspberries, and peaches.  You can also make mint chocolate chip by using bananas and dark chocolate with mint flavoring.
There is also a recipe book sold online for more ideas.
I love how this cures my cravy for ice cream at night, without all the calories and dairy which gets me sick!   Here's to keeping new year resolutions!! 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

This is 40...or 28.

This is me.

No I'm not 40 today, but 28.  The funny thing about me is that I have always felt like an old soul in a young body.  I love old movies.  Love the 50's style. Vintage. Like shopping at places like Ann Taylor.  And have always gotten along better with adults more than my own peers.   

Growing up I was pretty sheltered from watching tv, movies, and listening to music.  I never liked playing pretend, and would rather fill my time drawing or playing sports.  Ryan knows all this about me now.  Like the fact I grew up watching Cary Grant and Doris Day.  My lack of dancing abilities from never having school dances growing up.  He knows how foolish I feel trying to even look remotely sexy in anything I'm doing...and if I look sexy it usually means my sister dressed me.  He knows how hard of a time I have trying to come up with funny hashtag phrases for my tweets.

But this is the way God created me, and I'm okay with that.  He created me to be loving, affectionate, ambitious, realistic, and joyful.  And the great thing is, God gave me Ryan who definitely compliments my more serious, realistic, and unknowing personality in many ways.  He brings out the playful side of me and allows me to act like the kid I sometimes never was.  Even if I feel foolish in front of others, I can be that way with him.    

So another year older,  however I feel like I'm going to the other direction and am only getting younger with age. Here's to living life at 28 to fullest!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Midwest Monday: Wausau, WI

Hello followers!  It has been an exciting few weeks in our household.  It will be that way every year around this time considering we celebrate Christmas, New Years, our Anniversary, and my birthday all within a few weeks.  Ryan has to save up all year just to afford all the gifts for this month. :) 

For our anniversary dinner we went to this really great new place called Manila.  I love California and Philly Rolls!!!  YUM!

This past weekend we had an anniversary/birthday party with both our families.  We had the top of our wedding cake remade by Artistic Cakes for the big party.

The other big exciting news is that my sister with Danae Herrmann Photography is renting her first photography studio!  She is busy making plans and designs for the space, and also introduced a new website design for the new year.

For those of you in the Midwest area, my brother and I took a little trip to Wausau, WI this week and tried out a new restaurant that is amazing!  Definitely worth whatever drive it takes you to get there.  The Red Eye Brewery makes stone fired pizzas, wraps, and burgers.  They try to use all local herbs and produce, and their beef is from grass feed animals.  We both got one of their pizzas.  I think I'm gonna take my entire family on a road trip to try out this place again, it was that good!



While your there, Wausau has alot of great stores to stop at while downtown.  In the summer they have weekly concerts in the center of downtown here at the amphitheater.

No trip would be complete without a stop at Spoon-n-Yogurt!  So amazing!


Afterwards we took a short 15 minute drive out of town to Dells of Eau Claire Falls.  I got to try out my new winter boots on a hike along the Eau Claire River and the bluffs here at the falls.  It was nice to get outside and enjoy the fresh air! 


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Thermarest Trail Lite Review

I was looking for a sleeping pad that was convenient, small, and offered comfort against the rocks and bumpy ground.  Its often times too much work to lug out a huge air mattress for a short stay somewhere, or is just plain impossible if you are backpacking and carrying all your supplies. 

That's why I invested in the Thermarest Trail Lite Women's sleeping pad.  Thermarest is a well-known and respected brand among air mattress and pads.  I have used it so many times over the years and it has held up very well against the elements. 

Some 'Pro's' for the pad:
  • Lightweight.  If you are backpacking and looking to save on weight any way you can, this is a great mattress pad to bring along.
  • Durable.  I have had no problems with punctures even with how many times I have used it.  No leaks with the valve. It is also easy to wipe clean.
  • Comfort.  Offers comfort from the uneven ground, especially for back and stomach sleepers.  Lying on your side can still be uncomfortable, but definitely offers more support and cushion.  Women sleeping pads offer extra foam around the torso and feet for added insulation and warmth.
  • Spacious stuff sack.  Comes with a stuff sack that it fits into easily to keep it from getting dirty and provides easy stowaway.
  • Convenience.  I love the convenience and quickness of setting up camp.  Just open the valve and lay it out on the tent floor.  No batteries or pump needed!
  • No Anti-Slip.  The backing is not anti-slip material.  With its narrow size to keep it compact and light, I will often find myself slipping off the pad during the night when I roll over. 
  • Not waterproof if tent leaks. 
  • For women who are taller it can often times be too short.  Make sure you choose the correct length.
  • Not fully self inflating.  While it will inflate some, often times when I arrive at a site it is not fully inflated by the time I go to bed so I will have to blow it up myself.  Not a huge inconvenience though since it only takes a couple minutes.

Tips for storing your sleeping pad:
  • If your mattress is new, or has been stored rolled or compressed for a significant amount of time, it could take up to 24 hours for the foam inside your mattress to fully regain its maximum self-inflating efficiency. To help with this, they recommend inflating your mattress fully by mouth to help stretch the foam core back to its original loft.
  • Store all self-inflating mattresses dry, unrolled and with valves open.
  • Beware of extreme heat in places like attics and parked cars that can damage your mattress permanently. Under a bed or behind a couch that’s against a wall are good, space-saving options.
While the Theramest Trail Lite does compromise in areas and doesn't offer complete large air mattress comfort, it does however offer a blend of comfort, convenience, small size and durability to fit the basic needs of a weekend camper or backpacker. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

One Year Today!

A year ago today I married my best friend!  I can't believe a year has already gone by since that special day.  I have such good memories of our day.  The wonderful things that happened, along with the things that didn't go quite as planned, we can now look back and laugh at it all.  So today I will share with you a little bit about how our big day went...

The day started early at the salon with all my bridesmaids.  Due to some stylists being sick, it put us behind which led the way to a rushed morning...I got ready and met Ryan in the lobby of the hotel where we were staying that night where we had our "first look" prior to pictures.
The dress.
The rings.
Looking for Ryan in the lobby...
Found him!
Admiring my dress for the first time.
After our first look we all headed to photo locations with our bridal party.  This is where the real excitement started.  While we were tromping around my dress got brushed against some black dirt/grease that ran along the entire train....
 We immediately headed to the church.  Our photographers were so sweet and ran to Walgreens for some Tide to Go.  I grabbed some socks from someones bag and the girls immediately went to town with soap and water washing it out.  My bridesmaids mom brought a hair dryer to the church and we blew the dress dry seconds before I walked down the aisle.  Talk about good timing!
It was a miracle that no one could even tell!
 Thankfully once the ceremony started, the rest of the day went smoothly.  The ceremony was perfect.  Our good friends did an amazing job playing the piano, guitar and singing.
We did it!
Husband & Wife! 
My handsome groom.
One of my favorite parts of the day was arriving to the reception hall and seeing all the decorations I had worked so hard on.  I spent months staying up late making decorations, numerous trips to hobby lobby to get things on sale, and days collecting pinecones at the local park. 
I loved how it all came together!
Since I'm an outdoorsy girl, I wanted a rustic/vintage theme to my winter wedding.  I found some old windows and door at an old home that was getting torn down near where I lived.  I also rented burlap table runners, gathered sticks and pinecones for the centerpieces  , and rented tons of mason jars.
I luckily found two women who offered to do my wedding flowers. They captured exactly what I had been imagining.  We purchased the flowers online and they did an amazing job making the bouquets and adding flowers to the centerpieces.
Our First Dance

It was an amazing day!  Thanks for reliving it with me!
If the years to come are anything like the first, I know it will be filled with joy, love, and adventure!